Editor's Viewpoint: A timely scheme to help combat abuse
The latest figures show that domestic abuse here is a huge problem, and PSNI officers are responding to an incident of domestic abuse every 18 minutes. Many more go unreported.
This behaviour has been increasing steadily since the figures given for 2004-2005, and last year nearly 30,000 domestic abuse incidents were reported, with nearly half of these recorded as crimes.
To help deal with this worrying situation, a new scheme is coming into effect whereby women can check with the police about their partner's history to find out if they have a record of domestic violence or abuse. This will help them greatly to make informed decisions about the relationship with their partner, and to take appropriate action.
Concerned third parties can also be given access to the relevant information, and this provides an opportunity for family and close friends to watch out for signs of emotional or physical abuse.
These are often difficult situations which must be handled with care and sensitivity, particularly as the victims are often too frightened to seek help.
Those who want to combat such anti-social actions need to act with discretion, but hopefully the scheme will empower victims who feel helpless in the face of seemingly endless violence or threatening, abusive and demeaning behaviour.
The new Domestic Violence and Abuse Disclosure Scheme will give people the right not only to ask the police if a partner has a previous record but also lets the police take appropriate measures about this kind of behaviour which comes to their attention by other means.
It is important to remember also that victims of domestic abuse include men as well as women.
Given such a complex background, it is timely that these new measures will offer the same protection here which is available in other parts of the UK, and which will provide people who may be worried about their partner's past to take the right measures to protect themselves.
While there are no simple solutions to a complex and growing problem, the new scheme is an important step in the right direction.
It is crucial that the potential victims as well as family and friends remain vigilant, and that if and when people reach out for help, the support they need from statutory and voluntary agencies is readily available.